Monday, November 15, 2010

Heck in a dress

In my last post I mentioned a five hundred dollar dress at a op shop (or thrift store if you will) I was rootling through over the weekend. Sheila, a reader with whom I am certain I share an op-shopping gene, asked what the heck kind of dress could it have been?

I would love to report that it was an original mint condition Fortuny in a pale custard coloured silk, or the wild red frothy hip-clinging number from La Dolce Vita. It was nothing as exciting, but it was elegant, quite practical and looked a lot like this. Not exactly, but by the same designer (Betty Jackson), and in a very similar shape and shade. In short, it was a great work dress and in very good if not new condition.

And I was in a rather posh part of Sydney, miles away from my usual stamping ground. I had no doubt the local charity shops would be pricey.

Perhaps I should offer a case for the defence here? I have been doing the rounds of op shops since I was a little girl for my mother was also a champion op-shopper. I grew up wearing second clothes; some of my favourite, best loved items have been found on the racks and shelves of op shops. I love the process, I love the results: things are donated, they are priced reasonably, the money goes to a good cause and I get a great dress. I'm also happy to pay a fair price for an item - $30 to me is a good price for a clean, practical garment that I know I will wear. I would have handed over $50 for this dress.

In fact, I was certain the tag on the dress was a mistake, that they had meant to price it as $50. I asked the lady in the apron behind the counter. "Is this meant to be $500?"

She creased her brow and shook her head. "I don't think so, but I'll check."

I followed her out to the back where she had a hushed conversation with other apron ladies of the shop. About as much as I could glean is that the dress had come in with a particularly impressive load of designer clothes and they had all been priced very high. "It's $500 dollars," the boss apron lady said.

$500? It wouldn't have cost that much new.

I put it back on the rack. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the Salvation Army but I feel their pricing policies, and indeed a little bit of the fun of op shopping, jumped the shark on Saturday.

But it wasn't a complete loss. There were brooches, a lovely old hair clip and some very hard-to-find Liberty bangles.

I washed the Liberty bangles in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle in my rather snarky washing machine. I thought they came up rather nicely. The bangles, I should add, were much more in line with op-shop pricing at fifty cents each. The jewellery was eight dollars a piece. I wore the blue bangle with this dress today.